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State v. Chestnut

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

October 7, 2008

State of New Hampshire
v.
William Chestnut III

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

The defendant, William Chestnut III, appeals his conviction for second degree assault. He argues that the trial court erred in refusing to allow him to present evidence to establish that another man's ring could have inflicted the injury that gave rise to the indictment. We affirm.

Whether evidence is relevant is a question for the trial court's sound discretion; we will affirm its determination absent an unsustainable exercise of discretion. State v. Mitchell, 148 N.H. 293, 294 (2002). To establish an unsustainable exercise of discretion, the defendant must demonstrate that the court's ruling was clearly untenable or unreasonable to the prejudice of his case. Id. Evidence is relevant if it has "any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." N.H. R. Ev. 401. A defendant has no constitutional right to present irrelevant evidence and no right under Part I, Article 15 of the New Hampshire Constitution to introduce evidence that will have little effect other than to confuse the issues or confound the jury, for such evidence is not competent, favorable proof. Mitchell, 148 N.H. at 294.

In this case, the defendant argues that the victim's injury was caused by the ring of another person at the scene. In his motion in limine, he proffered that: (1) the other man was at the scene; (2) he owned a ring with protruding spikes; (3) he had previously used the ring as a weapon; and (4) after the fight, he said, "I live for this shit." Of the four proffers, the trial court excluded only evidence that the other man had previously used the ring as a weapon.

At the hearing on the motion in limine, defense counsel conceded that no one saw the other man wearing the ring on the night in question and that the evidence of his previous use related to incidents one and two years in the past. In the absence of any evidence that the other man was engaged in a fight with the victim at the time of the injury or that he had the ring on the night in question, we find no error in the trial court's ruling.

Affirmed.

DALIANIS, DUGGAN and HICKS, JJ., ...


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